Replenish Brings the Refill to Personal Care

RP Siegel | Friday November 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment

ClearPath 5Sustainability becomes embedded when it becomes invisible, and that happens as a consequence of good design. People don’t buy Tesla Roadsters because they’re efficient. They buy them because they are beautiful and powerful and fast. People use refillable water bottles because they make sense, especially if you think about the amount of waste associated with disposable bottles.

The new personal care product bottles announced by Replenish yesterday at the 2014 BSR conference, fall somewhere between the two and will do well because of it. It’s a terrific combination of great design and good sense. These new reusable bottles are designed to internally accept replacement pods of concentrate that are mixed inside with no mess.

You might think: This is not a big deal. Refills of things like liquid hand soap have been around for a while. And all kinds of products are sold as concentrates. There has also been a recent move towards compaction in areas like laundry detergents. As there should be. Considering the fact that most home care products contain 90 percent water, why spend the fuel and the carbon and the money to ship water to millions of homes when we already have perfectly good water supply systems that do that very well for far less money?

We’ve been doing that with coffee and tea for as long as we’ve been drinking them. Now Coca-Cola is allying with Green Mountain Keurig so that we’ll soon be able to do it with soft drinks, too.

The idea might seem obvious, but as I learned when I spoke with Replenish founder Jason Foster, that doesn’t mean it was easy to make it happen. In fact, when Foster came up with the idea seven years ago (while ironing a shirt) he wondered, “Why isn’t there a bottle like this already?”

Even if the idea was obvious, the implementation was not. The Replenish bottle design is elegant. Here’s how it works: The squirt bottle has a threaded hole in the bottom to which the concentrate pod attaches. There is also a valve inside that keeps the concentrate from leaking in or the mixture from leaking out. Then, inside the main bottle is an upside-down measuring cup which is some distance away from the bottom.

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Balancing Commerce, Idealism and Yoga Pants: Q&A with prAna CEO

| Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments

pranalogoAn early adopter of organic cotton and the first major brand to bring Fair Trade apparel to market, prAna has now joined the growing list of beloved green brands (think Annie’s Homegrown, Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine) to be gobbled up by the big guys. The California-based lifestyle brand best known for its climbing and yoga apparel was recently acquired by Columbia Sportswear – a move that will not only help the parent company, a historically cold-weather sports brand, expand its offering, but will also fortify the smaller brand with an operations platform that can help its sustainability mantra reach new global markets.

PrAna’s commitment to sustainability has set it apart from the rest from the start. In its early days, prAna’s founders would cut and sew clothing in their garage, craft hangtags made with homemade recycled paper, and ship orders to customers in boxes gathered from the local grocery store. The company was also an early proponent of renewable energy within the apparel industry, pioneering wind power through its Natural Power Initiative, for which it was recognized as an EPA Green Power Partner. PrAna has come a long way from making its garments in garages and delivering clothes in fruit boxes – today the company’s products are sold at 1,400 specialty retailers across the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia and its sales are expected to hit more than $100 million this year. All of this is expected to continue to grow in the wake of Columbia’s acquisition. The question on everybody’s minds is: “Will this acquisition change the company’s commitment to sustainability?”

In an age when more and more socially and environmentally responsible companies are being bought to help diversify big corporate portfolios, what can we learn from a company that has woven sustainability into its business from day one and has consistently sought to strike a fine balance between commerce and idealism? I spoke with prAna CEO Scott Kerslake to hear more about what this new corporate partnership will mean to a company named after the ancient Sanskrit word for “life force,” and how the brand has set its intention to keep it real.

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Report Singles Out 32 Countries Most at Risk from Climate Change

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 1 Comment

IPCC_total_anthropogenic_GHG_IPCCrptAll eyes are on the IPCC report this week. But the global panel isn’t the only one sounding the alarm. Last month, as if in anticipation of the IPCC’s latest release, the Pentagon did its own alarm-sounding: Climate change issues are a real risk and need to be considered in the interest of national security.

Now, I know what you are probably thinking: the Pentagon? When has this country’s military nerve center ever sounded out about climate change?

But really, who else is going to have the finger on the pulse when it comes to the political and social impacts of global warming?

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Adidas Creates Human Rights Complaint Process

Michael Kourabas
| Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments

10095914514_55cafe6ecb_zLast month, German sportswear giant, The Adidas Group (Adidas), quietly released its “Third Party Complaint Process for Breaches to the Adidas Group Workplace Standards or Violations of International Human Rights Norms” (the Process).  Although the document is not perfect, and it is impossible to fairly evaluate the process without examining how it functions in practice, Adidas appears to have created a strong grievance mechanism that passes muster under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights.

What did Adidas do?

Introduction: The document containing the new Adidas Process opens with a bold pronouncement:  “The Adidas Group is committed to operating as a sustainable business which is environmentally sound, respects human rights and ensures fair, safe and healthy working conditions across our global supply chain.”  The Process was designed to help Adidas satisfy these commitments.

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The Business Risks of Water Shortages

| Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 1 Comment

CDP 2014 Global Water Report cvrWhether it’s greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and climate change, waste management and recycling, or water usage, investors and businesses are increasingly sensitive and exposed to the risks environmental crises pose to the financial bottom line.

Yesterday, CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project) released the CDP Global Water Report 2014: From water risk to value creation. Representing 573 professional investment management companies responsible for managing a mind-boggling $60 trillion in assets, CDP surveyed 174 of the world’s largest companies regarding their water usage, their exposure to threats to water resources and how they are, or are planning, to cope.

Indicative of the widespread risks and seriousness of the threats to water resources they perceive, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of survey respondents reported exposure to water risk. Ninety percent are integrating water resource management into group-wide business strategies, and 82 percent are setting goals and targets to reduce water use.

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CDP: Just Disclose Before Your Investors Make You

3p Conferences
| Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Paul Dickinson: globalisation has limited the power of government to act in the best interests of its citizens

Paul Dickinson: Globalization has limited the power of government to act in the best interests of its citizens.

By Felicity Carus

Nike and ExxonMobil are not two companies often mentioned in the same breath, unless of course it comes to the health of their profits.

But Paul Dickinson, founder and executive chairman of CDP, is disappointed by the apparel giant’s refusal to participate in the nonprofit’s voluntary Global Water Report launched yesterday. Exxon participated in the CDP’s last annual carbon report, while Nike did not make its data public for the water report.

The water report was conducted on behalf of 503 investors, such as Bank of America, CalPRS, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan Chase & Co, with $60 trillion in assets under management.

“It’s a bizarre company like Exxon or Nike who will ignore a legitimate question for their shareholders,” he tells me. “The question is: If they are not answerable to their shareholders, then who are they answerable to? Are they rogue companies?”

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ExxonMobil, MIT Hook Up on $25 Million Energy Initiative

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday November 6th, 2014 | 1 Comment

MITEI_logo_R3ExxonMobil will chip in $25 million over five years as a founding member of the MIT Energy Initiative, a collaboration aimed at “working together to advance and explore the future of energy.”

Under the agreement:

  • The $25 million will support “faculty and research efforts”
  • ExxonMobil will collaborate with MIT on a “wide range” of projects, including research to improve and expand renewable energy sources and find more efficient ways to produce and use conventional hydrocarbon resources
  • MIT will establish 10 ExxonMobil Energy Fellows each year for graduate students
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After the Thrift Store: What Happens to Your Donated Clothes?

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday November 5th, 2014 | 4 Comments

Goodwill StoreThis past weekend, thousands of fans crowded Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, to watch the San Francisco 49ers play the St. Louis Rams. Many of these attendees showed up to the game with old jeans and other unwanted articles of clothing, donating them in exchange for a special Levi’s discount coupon, as part of a used clothing drive sponsored by Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co) and Goodwill.

Since Levi Strauss announced the collection event in late October, the iconic jeans maker has received 15,500 unwanted pairs of jeans – 10 tons of denim – dropped off at Goodwill stores for this campaign and at this weekend’s game. Goodwill will sell those jeans and other donations to fund its job training program.

Later this month, LS&Co will cover the field of its stadium with the donated denim, creating a “Field of Jeans” to visually express the enormity of the country’s textile waste – 26 billion pounds sent to the landfill every year, according to the denim giant – as well as to demonstrate an example of how we can find a new use for that material. LS&Co’s partner Goodwill will be responsible for sorting and reselling all jeans and clothes collected through the “Field of Jeans” event.

But what happens to used clothing that can’t be resold – not just from this “Field of Jeans” clothes drive, but from other nonprofit charities, for-profit thrift stores and collection events?

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California Readies for Cap-and-Trade Next Steps

Leon Kaye | Wednesday November 5th, 2014 | 8 Comments
Terrapass, cap and trade, California, refineries, Union of Concerned Scientists, Leon Kaye, energy efficiency, public transportation, environmental defense fund, gasoline prices

Valero refinery in Benicia, California.

In November 2012, California launched its cap-and-trade program, the second largest in the world after the European Union’s. The state’s largest carbon producers — businesses that emit over 25,000 metric tons of emissions annually — buy carbon allowances from the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) quarterly auctions. Depending on who you ask, California’s carbon market is either a success or a drag on the state’s economy. The Environmental Defense Fund, for example, has touted California’s cap-and-trade as a global model for reducing emissions while creating new business opportunities. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), on the other hand, regularly criticizes the program for what it says drives up the costs of business and could wreak havoc within the fuel markets.

The way California’s cap-and-trade program works is relatively simple. Large polluters, such as utilities, buy certificates for each ton of carbon they produce. Polluters who are successful in reducing their emissions can sell their allowances to other companies who are unable to do so, in sum creating a market-based price for carbon. The allowances will slowly decline in numbers over the years, so think of cap-and-trade as a form of musical chairs, with companies bidding on fewer certificates over time — motivating them to find ways to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the first successful cap-and-trade programs was launched during the George H.W. Bush administration in 1990. Under the 1990 Clean Air Act, major polluters who were responsible for “acid rain” traded certificates in a move to reduce the emissions of such pollutants as sulphur dioxide. A generation later, California’s cap-and-trade program continues to grow: For example, the state has linked with Quebec’s cap-and-trade program, allowing the two to trade each other’s carbon allowances. And as of January 2015, petroleum refineries will also be required to participate within California’s cap-and-trade system. The energy companies are clearly unhappy about it, sharing scenarios of the state’s economy headed for a “fuels cliff.” But will California, the economy of which has been oft-described as careening over a cliff, really experience a disruption to its slowly recovering economy?

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Latest IPCC Report Comes with Grim Warnings

RP Siegel | Wednesday November 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments

GW sea level chartLast week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fourth and final report on climate change. The report contained no big surprises, since it essentially summarized the findings of the three reports issued over the past year. But the panel, having reviewed all the data, was now in a position to take a broad view of the issue.

Said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, “Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

The panel has been reviewing the issue since 1988. All told, they have reviewed some 30,000 scientific studies, which led to the conclusion that most of the warming that has occurred since 1950 was due to emissions generated by human activity. They reached this conclusion with 95 percent confidence. What they found is that we have set in motion a process that has disrupted the natural balance of our climate. And we have done it with all of the carbon-based fuels that we collectively burn every day. If you want to get a sense of how much carbon that is, you should take a look here.

Despite the fact that the National Climate Assessment showed that climate change is already impacting every American, the American public is lagging far behind the science on this issue. A Pew Research poll taken last year shows that while 69 percent of Americans believe that climate change is occurring, only 40 percent see it as a threat. A similar poll, taken in 39 countries around the world, found that Americans have the lowest level of concern about the issue, despite the fact that we have emitted more cumulative CO2 than any other country in the world.

Why are Americans so blasé about this? Well, first all of all, the world doesn’t seem that much different yet. Yes, there are unusual rainfall patterns, the droughts and floods, the melting ice, the release of methane from Arctic permafrost, the unusually severe storms, the fact that plants are blooming earlier, birds and insects arriving sooner from migration or winter dormancy, the arrival of tropical diseases into temperate zones, and so on. But most people don’t notice these things because most of them are invisible most of the time.

Three or four degrees don’t seem like such a big deal when the temperature changes more than that during the course of a typical day. Also, Americans, despite our prosperity and our widespread use of technology, are not particularly savvy when it comes to science. In fact, in an international comparison of science education, American students ranked 27th out of 35 countries, well below most Asian and European countries. That’s something we need to fix.

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A Brief History of the Plastic Bag

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday November 5th, 2014 | 8 Comments

Plastic bag litterCalifornia made headlines this fall when it became the first U.S. state to place a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags. But how did we get here: from just a few grocery stores offering customers plastic bags in the late ‘70s to today, with Americans using 100 billion plastic bags each year? Just how did the plastic bag become both so popular in our society and so problematic to the environment?

In 1965, Swedish company Celloplast came up with the design on which all modern plastic shopping bags are based: a tube of plastic sealed at the bottom to allow for the packaging of goods, an open top to insert such items into the bag and handles for convenient carrying. This model bag, which later became known as the “T-shirt plastic bag,” was made from high-density polyethylene, or No. 2-type plastic – the same used to produce plastic bottles and plastic lumber.

ExxonMobile was responsible for introducing the plastic shopping bag to the U.S., and the bag debuted in American grocery store checkout lines by the late 1970s. But the T-shirt plastic bag didn’t really start encroaching on the paper grocery bag’s territory until 1982, when two of country’s largest supermarket chains, Safeway and Kroger, made the switch from paper to plastic.

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How to Raise Your B Corp Assessment Score

Ryan Honeyman | Wednesday November 5th, 2014 | 0 Comments

This is a weekly series of excerpts from the new book “The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, October 13, 2014). Click here to read the rest of the excerpts.

downloadBy Ryan Honeyman

Our series continues with the next installment of a six-week, turbocharged Quick Start Guide to becoming a Certified B Corporation.

Week one focused on getting a baseline assessment of your social and environmental performance, week two focused on motivating and engaging your team, and week three was about creating an action plan for B Corp certification.

Week Four: Implement your improvements

Time estimate: One to five hours

OBJECTIVE: The objective during week four is for you and your team to dig in and start completing the items on your action plan.

END RESULT: An increase in your B Impact Assessment score.

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DOE Invests $15 Million in Solar PV-Energy Storage Grid Integration

| Wednesday November 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments

doe eere solar_0Energy flows all around us, but it’s not very beneficial unless it’s harnessed, concentrated and distributed in a form useful to those who need it. That’s one of the factors that has made distributed solar energy generation increasingly attractive. More powerful and cheaper than ever, photovoltaic (PV) panels are producing ever-greater amounts of pollution-free energy on-site for homes, businesses, government and public facilities in developing and developed countries the world over.

Utility-scale generation accounts for the bulk of installed solar power  capacity in the U.S. The lack of transmission and distribution lines has constrained growth. Building those power lines also adds significantly to the time and cost of bringing new utility-scale solar power assets online. The converse is also true. Connecting rapidly growing residential and commercial solar energy systems to the power grid can yield substantial benefits all around – to power distribution companies as well as consumers and “prosumers.”

Yet, for a variety of reasons – including strong opposition on the part of well-entrenched power utilities – connecting distributed, on-site solar energy systems to the grid has proven to be a significant hurdle to wider-scale deployment and use.

Aiming to speed things up, the Department of Energy on Oct. 29 announced it is making $15 million available to promote integration of distributed, on-site solar energy systems into the U.S. electricity grid. Solar energy growth continues to shatter records, DOE notes in a press release, “with more solar power installed in the U.S. in the last 18 months than in 30 years prior.” 

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SB London: The Brewer, the Banker and the Sustainable Shoemaker

3p Conferences
| Wednesday November 5th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Aly Khalifa, founder of Lyf Shoes: do we know better than what we're doing now?

Aly Khalifa, founder of Lyf Shoes: Do we know better than what we’re doing now?

By Felicity Carus

Today was not so much the march of the change-makers, but the march of the brewer, the banker and the sustainable shoemaker at Sustainable Brands London 2014.

The brewer

Michael Dickstein, director of global sustainable development at Heineken International, showed the power of music in the company’s ‘Dance More, Drink Less’ responsible drinking campaign. But not all brands have access to Armin Van Buuren to encourage customers to “drink slow.”

He then showed a teaser for next year’s campaign that seemed to set a target of 100 percent sustainably sourced barley and hops by 2020. That’s a long time to wait for a green beer.

The banker

Financial service companies are thin on the ground at Sustainable Brands London. But all the financial wrongdoing of the banking sector was left to be represented by David Wheldon of Barclays, who surely has the most interesting job title in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) space: head of brand, reputation and citizenship.

Jo Confino, executive editor at the Guardian, gave Wheldon a tough welcome: “Let’s be honest about this, the Bank of England produced a new report saying that wrongdoing in the banking industry was still embedded in the culture. Barclays has put aside another £500 million for its rigging and wrongdoing and generally appalling behaviour being one of the institutions that has driven us a society to the point of bankruptcy.”

“Jo’s introduction, let’s face it, is absolutely right. For around 30 years, the financial services industry has made a woeful mistake of not putting the people that it serves at the center of what it does. The consequence of that is a lot of things that need fixing,” said Wheldon in reply.

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Why Would a Company Fund STEM Skills Development?

3p Contributor | Wednesday November 5th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: Phil Preston recently sat down with Milinda Martin of Time Warner Cable to discuss the company’s Connect a Million Minds program. This is the second post reflecting this conversation. In case you missed it, you can read the first post here.

TWC at Maker Faire

By Phil Preston

From the business perspective, what motivated Time Warner Cable to invest heavily in STEM skill development through their Connect a Million Minds program? I asked their VP of Community Investment, Milinda Martin, how it fits in with the business agenda.

Phil Preston: I realize the timeframes are long, but have you developed any specific business metrics to measure the benefits of this initiative?

Milinda Martin: We have held three customer and non-customer studies over the course of our five-year commitment: in year zero (baseline), halfway through and just recently, as we near the end of the official commitment. Note that we are continuing our commitment: We now call it “one million and counting” because we are still not where we need to be regarding youth and STEM.

Those studies have shown, emphatically, that both our customers and the general population have a better impression of TWC as a result of Connect a Million Minds. And the greater the engagement with our Connect a Million Minds platform, the greater the individuals’ perception of our company. Our first wave of middle-schoolers are just now graduating from high-school, so it is too early to say if we are seeing results in terms of hiring/candidate skills, but we know that, in aggregate, we have engaged more than 5 million youths in hands-on STEM activities at some point. This figure includes all of the youths engaged through our nonprofit partners because not all go through the formal process of taking the Connect a Million Minds pledge.

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